Himyarites , and Himyaritie Language and Inscriptions. Ethnologically and linguistically considered, the term Himyaritic denotes the whole group of races and languages from the basin of the Euphrates, across South Arabia, to Abyssinia. The Himyaritcs are mentioned in classical literature under the name of Ho-merites. They traced their origin to Himyar, grandson of Saba and descendant of Joktan or Kahtan, one of the mythical ancestors of the Arabs. According to their traditions, they became the dominant race in Yemen about 3,000 years before the time of Mohammed. Abulfeda, in his "Short History of the Human Race," assigns to their dynasty a duration of 2,020 years. The date of the destruction of the first Adite empire, which apparently included the whole of Arabia Felix, and not alone Yemen proper, has been fixed by Caussin de Perceval at 18 centuries B. C. It is supposed that it was caused by the invasion of the Jok-tanite tribes. But the Cushites, or the first Adites, soon recovered the supremacy, and for many centuries the Joktanites continued in subjection, but increased in strength, and finally usurped the dominion.
During the first centuries of the second Adite empire Yemen was temporarily subjugated by the Egyptians, who called it the land of Pun. They seem to have lost it again at the close of the 18th dynasty; but Rameses II. regained it, and it was not finally lost till the time of the 20th dynasty. The Joktanites under Yarub gained the political supremacy, according to Caussin de Perceval, at the beginning of the 8th century B. C. Ibn Khaldun, a comparatively trustworthy Arab historian, says: "Lokman and his children (the new Adite empire) preserved the royalty for 1,000 years. The power of this family lasted till it was overthrown by Yarub, son of Kahtan. Conquered by him, the Adites took refuge in the mountains of Hadramaut, and finally entirely disappeared." Yashjob, Yarub's son, was a feeble prince, who allowed the chiefs of the various provinces of his states to make themselves independent; this is the origin of the separate kingdoms of Hadramaut and Mahrah, which from that time always had their own rulers, sometimes independent, and sometimes vassals of Yemen. Yashjob's son, Abd Shems, surnamed Sheba, recovered the power, and reunited under his government all the petty dynasties of Arabia Felix. Abulfeda ascribes to him the construction of the famous dike of Marib, the rupture of which a short time after the Christian era was one of the great events of the ancient history of Yemen. The more popular tradition, however, which attributes it to Lokman and the second Adites, is considered more probable.
Its ruins remain to our day. Abd Shems had several children, among them Himyar and Kahlan, from whom were descended the greater part of the Yemenite tribes at the time of the rise of Islamism. The Himyarites seem to have settled in the towns, while the Kahlanites inhabited the country and the deserts of Yemen. Himyar was only an appellation signifying "the red," and the real name of the son of Abd Shems was Ghazahaj. The children of Himyar at first shared the royalty with other families, especially that of Kahtan. The Arab historians do not supply a complete list of the successors of Himyar or Ghazahaj. Him-yar's brother Kahlan, and Wathil, Alamluk, and Shammir, are named as his successors. An Assyrian inscription speaks of Yathaamir, on whom Sargon imposed a tribute of gold, spices, horses, and camels. Esarhaddon also seems to have made an expedition to South Arabia. A large number of Arabs emigrated to Ethiopia during several centuries preceding our era. About 100 B. C. the supreme power was concentrated in the house of Himyar, and caused the ancient name of Saba?ans, given to the southern Arabs, to be replaced by that of Himyarites. (See Sabaeans.) In the account of the expedition of AElius Gallus in 24 B. C, the Himyarites appear for the first time under the name of Homerites. The most flourishing period of the Himyarites appears to have commenced with Harith er-Baish, whom Caussin de Perceval places about 100 B. C, and ended with Dhu Norvas and his successor, who were defeated by the Abyssinians in A. D. 525. South Arabia subsequently fell under the dominion of the Persians, and in 629 the Himyarites succumbed to Mohammed and accepted Islam. (See Arabia, and Yemen.) Direct descendants of the ancient Himyarites are the tribes of Mahrah. They are black in color, medium in stature, Semitic in countenance, strong and sinewy in structure.
Their dress is a cloth for the loins and another for the head. The women are covered with a kind of shawl, and wear pantaloons and veils only in towns. A man with breeches would be an object of ridicule. They belong to the orthodox sect of the Shafei. - The so-called Himyar-itic language, or, better, the language of the Sabaeans, says Osiander, seems to form with Arabic and Ethiopic the southern branch of the Semitic family, and stands in a peculiar relation at once of agreement and disagreement to both in common and to each separately. In common with Arabic, it possesses the whole delicate system of sounds, the diphthongs, the laws of the transmutation of sounds, and several peculiarities of the verb. In common with Ethiopic, it has its type of a graphic system, the want of the article, and many words not found in other kindred languages. It differs from Arabic and Ethiopic by terminating the imperfect in n, in the form of the infinitive, and other grammatical peculiarities. Several of its characteristics it has only in common with Hebrew and Assyrian; in others it resembles the Aramaic. Several scholars therefore do not classify Himyaritic as a dialect of Arabic, but consider it an independent language, and possibly an elder sister of Hebrew and Assyrian. Renan also considers the Himyaritic too widely different from Arabic to group them together. - Karsten Niebuhr (1774) was the first who called attention to the existence of inscriptions in a peculiar character in the southern districts of Arabia. In 1810 Dr. Seetzen, a German traveller, followed up the indications of Niebuhr, and discovered at Zhafar three inscriptions, and five others built into the walls of the mosque of the neighboring village of Mankat. The next discoveries were made by various officers of the Palinurus, a vessel of the British Indian navy, stationed in the Red sea in order to make a survey of the coast.
In 1843 Arnaud copied 56 inscriptions at Sana, Khariba, Marib, and the so-called Haram of Bilkis. Baron von Wrede discovered inscriptions on a dike in the wady Webeneh in Hadramaut, and Kennett Loftus came upon a tomb closed in with a rough sandstone slab inscribed in the Himyaritic character, while making excavations in the mounds at Warka, in southern Babylonia. The British museum has also two gems with Himyaritic characters brought from Babylonia, and two others of which the history is unknown. Coghlan and Playfair presented the museum with a number of bronze tablets, principally dedications to Almakah, discovered by them at Amran, near Sana. An altar of limestone dedicated to Athtor was found at Ibyan or Abyan, about 30 m. N. E. of Aden. Several inscriptions have been found also on the dike at Marib. Many others have recently been found, which have increased the collection to several hundred specimens. It is probable that the larger number of these monuments must be referred to the later and more flourishing period of the Himyarite kings, between 100 B. C. and A. D. 500. Two inscriptions have been discovered bearing dates, one from Sana dated 573, and one from Hisn Ghorab dated 604. It does not appear however that it has been determined by what era these dates are calculated.
Several Arabic writers have preserved to us alphabets of the Himyaritic character, which is called Musned by them, with the corresponding Arabic letters. These alphabets have formed the basis of the interpretation of the inscriptions by modern orientalists. The latter are in horizontal lines, generally from right to left, but occasionally a boustrophedon mode is adopted, chiefly where the lines are of great length. The words are usually separated from each other by a vertical stroke, which has greatly facilitated the interpretation of the inscriptions. This was discovered from the fact that in certain formulas which frequently occur a word would sometimes terminate exactly at the end of a line, leaving no space for the upright stroke, which was then altogether omitted, showing that it was not an integral part of the writing. The inscription which we give is copied from a copper tablet sent by Prideaux from Aden. Praetorius, in the Zeitschrift der Morgenlan-dischen Gesellschaft (1872), has advanced the opinion that it is a forgery like many others, as Von Maltzan has discovered that a Jewish coppersmith in Sana had obtained possession of copies of genuine inscriptions and made others from them by combining portions of several of them.
In the case before us we have true Himyaritic characters, but the first five lines are the same as those of a copy furnished by Halevy. They have been translated as follows : "Halaida with his sons, the sons of Ma-dikarib, the family of Iaf 'an, has given homage to the Athtar of Qabad." - The principal notices that have appeared on the subject of the Himyaritic characters, or the interpretation of the inscriptions, are by Rodiger, Ewald, Ge-senius, Gildemeister, Fresnel, Osiander, Levy, Halevy, and Praetorius. They are to be found in the Zeitschrift far die Kunde des Morgen-landes, the Journal Asiatique, and similar periodicals. The British museum published in 1863 all the inscriptions in the Himyaritic character then owned by it.